Ways to stay warm: Calcuttans' guide

Woollens to a run around the block, piping hot cuppa to a drink or two - the long spell of sub-12 temperature has sent Calcuttans scurrying for some warmth.

By Debraj Mitra in Calcutta
  • Published 13.01.18


Emma Stone in a Burberry trenchcoat. The fashion brand’s store  at Quest Mall has sold at least four trenchcoats this winter

(From top) A woman tries out a woollen cap at New Market, a game of cricket on the Maidan and tea-totallers at Balwant Singh’s Eating House on Harish Mukherjee Road. Pictures by Anup Bhattacharya & Pradip Sanyal

Calcutta: Woollens to a run around the block, piping hot cuppa to a drink or two - the long spell of sub-12 temperature has sent Calcuttans scurrying for some warmth.

Metro takes a look at how the chill has changed lives

Cap that

"Isme kya kaan dhakta hai?" was the most common query on the New Market pavement opposite New Empire. It was brisk business for hawkers selling caps, gloves and socks. From schoolchildren to middle-aged women, everyone wanted one.

"The past seven days have been better than the 30 days before them," said Raja Rajkumar, who has been selling 220-250 caps a day since the last weekend, compared to 100-120 before that, said Raja, packing a grey-and-white striped beanie cap for a young customer. Most of the caps were priced between Rs 100 and 150.

Azaad Khan, selling socks and gloves next to Raja, was equally busy. He sells junk jewellery for nine-and-a-half months and switches to gloves and socks from the middle of November to February.

Chandrani Biswas, a Lake Town resident, bought four pairs of gloves - two small ones for her daughters aged 6 and 9 and two large ones for her husband and herself. "We will be going to Santiniketan tomorrow," said Biswas, a schoolteacher.

From street fashion to high fashion, the Burberry store at Quest Mall has sold at least four trench coats, priced well above Rs 1 lakh, since December 25, according to a shop assistant. Tweed jackets are the other top pick.

Tea time

At least six cars were parked outside Balwant Singh's Eating House around 3pm on Thursday, their occupants sipping the eatery's trademark tea. Waiters in orange tees rushed around, serving customers inside and outside. A man poured piping hot tea from a giant saucepan into a smaller steel can and from the can to some 15 khullars in front of him.

"We have been using up to 400 litres of milk every day for the past week, the bulk of it for tea," said Manish Singh, the grandson of Balwant Singh. In winter, he usually needs 350 litres a day.

The joint is especially popular among late-night revellers and morning walkers. The biting cold has marginally reduced the second lot, said Singh. "But people are coming all day and late into the night," Singh said.

Always a sport

The chill has had its effect on cricket coaching camps as well. The kids are full of enthusiasm even in the morning. "But their parents, wrapped in woollens, are found rubbing their hands to keep warm," said Sambaran Banerjee, who runs the Mainland Sambaran Academy at Vivekananda Park off Southern Avenue.

Attendance has dropped by 30 per cent at Saradindu Mukherjee's coaching camps in Harish Park and the Maidan over the last week.

Susmita Jha, a running enthusiast who regularly takes part in marathons, is lacing up at 5am as usual for practice every alternate day. "November to March is the peak season for serious runners, with several races lined up in Calcutta and other cities. We can't afford to relax because of the chill," said the IT professional.

Spirits up

The Shaw Brothers-owned bar at Esplanade, more famous as Chhota Bristol, is one place where the weather has surely lifted the spirits.

Around 4pm on Thursday, the drinking den hardly had a free table. "You won't find a place after 6.30pm," said Uday Shaw, one of the co-owners.

For the past week, there has been a reasonable crowd within minutes of the bar opening at 11am, said a waiter. The bar has been selling more than 450 litres of alcohol a day this month.